Early lambs free from fatal virus

Sheep Centre owner Terry Wigmore with two 5 day old Herdwick Cross lambs who were found orphaned by walkers on the Downs near Lewes
Sheep Centre owner Terry Wigmore with two 5 day old Herdwick Cross lambs who were found orphaned by walkers on the Downs near Lewes
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SEVEN Sisters Sheep Centre has reopened for the lambing season and its first 30 newborns are free of the Schmallenberg virus thought to have affected 26 East Sussex farms.

Terry Wigmore, owner of the Seven Sisters Sheep Centre, said the virus, which came over from the Netherlands and Germany last year, was a worry but his sheep had not yet been affected.

Terry said, “It is a concern because you can’t see whether they are affected by it because you can’t see inside. However, we have had 30 lambs born this season and they have all been healthy.”

The virus is spread by midges, which bite the pregnant sheep and cause deformed or stillborn lambs.

Terry said the virus can’t be detected and is only found when the lamb is born.

He said, “It doesn’t really show in the sheep. They may have an off day but it does affect the little one if they are pregnant.

“The severity of their deformity depends on when they were bitten. In the early stages they have less protection and in the later stages there is more protection.”

Terry, like all farmers in the area, is being vigilant but hopes being on the Downs and the dry weather will act as a protection from the midges.

He said, “Midges tend to like marshland and damper areas.”

Defra, the NFU and the Food Standards Agency have all offered advice and information about Schmallenberg but there is very little farmers can do as there is no vaccination against the virus.

• The Seven Sisters Sheep Centre reopened its doors last Saturday (March 3) and will remain open until May 7. People can visit between 10.30am and 5pm, seven days a week throughout the lambing season.